Is Barako Bull a legitimate title contender or a mere pretender?
The unbeaten Energy want to prove the former as they go for their best start in franchise history and solidify their hold of the top spot against the dangerous San Miguel Beermen today in the PBA Governors’ Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Barako is still on a high following its come-from-behind 105-99 victory over Meralco last Sunday, equaling the 4-0 start in the 2007 Fiesta Conference when the Energy were known as the original Air21 Express.
Now, Barako Bull Coach Koy Banal and his boys are eager to establish a new mark and show to the league that the underachieving team has what it takes to compete with the big guns.
“I threw that question to the players, I told them, ‘are we going to stop here?’ hopefully not. We’ll see how far we can go,” said Banal, who is only in his second conference as Energy mentor.
“But our focus is the task at hand. We’re setting aside whatever our streak is and also the franchise record stare. We prepared for San Miguel Beer, that is our focus.”
Banal had a somewhat similar start last conference when Barako opened the Commissioner’s Cup with three straight wins. The Energy, however, folded when they lost four of their final six games before bowing out in the playoffs.
This time, Barako wants to go deeper. And today’s 4:15 p.m. showdown against San Miguel will determine whether they are capable of doing so.
San Miguel is coming off a 100-89 victory over defending champion Star, moving into a tie for fifth place with Globalport at 3-2 after dropping its first two matches.
The Beermen are slowly regaining the form that made them win the Philippine Cup last January.
Beermen import Arizona Reid dominated the Hotshots for 29 points and 11 rebounds while June Mar Fajardo produced 21 points and 20 rebounds.
Barako, however, is confident it can match up with the two SMB stars, with 7-foot-2 import Liam McMorrow leading the charge.
“We’re going up against a champion team, a team that is deadly both outside and inside, they’re a very three-point shooting team with AZ Reid and Marcio Lassiter. But I’m confident that my players we can match up well when we face SMB,” Banal said.
Local support will come from JC Intal, Dylan Ababou, RR Garcia, Chico Lanete, Willie Wilson and Joseph Yeo, who produced his best game since joining Barako from Barangay Ginebra San Miguel by scoring 28 points against Meralco.
Star and Alaska collide in the second game at 7 p.m. with both teams entering the game with contrasting fortunes.
The Hotshots have lost three straight after starting the conference with a victory over the NLEX Road Warriors while the Alaska Aces are in solo second at presstime at 3-1.
Alaska, however, is still smarting from its 104-103 defeat to Talk ‘N Text last May 18, its first loss after racing to a 3-0 start.